Don Denkinger, longtime MLB umpire responsible for infamous World Series call in 1985, passes away at 86 years old
- Don Denkinger was an umpire for three decades and worked four World Series
- He died in Waterloo, Iowa and is survived by his wife and three daughters
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Don Denkinger, an MLB umpire for 30 seasons, died in Iowa on Friday. He was 86 years old.
According to Denise Hanson, one of his three daughters, he passed away at Cedar Valley Hospice in Waterloo, Iowa.
‘Today MLB remembers longtime American League Umpire Don Denkinger, who passed away at 86,’ MLB said in a statement.
‘The genial Denkinger was on the field from 1969-1998 and worked four World Series, the last of which included plate duties for the epic Morris-Smoltz Game 7 in 1991. Rest in Peace, Don.’
Despite Denkinger’s long and distinguished career, he was best known by some for his blown call in the 1985 World Series.
Umpire Don Denkinger, left, watches as St. Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell, right, stretches to catch the ball as Kansas City Royals batter Jorge Orta steps on first base during the ninth inning in Game 6 of baseball’s World Series in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 26, 1985. Denkinger ruled Orta safe and the Royals went on to win the game and eventually the World Series
FSt. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, left, is ejected by home plate umpire Don Denkinger, center, during Game 7 of the baseball team’s World Series against the Kansas City Royals in 1985
St. Louis had a 3-2 Series lead over Kansas City and was ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6, three outs from the title, when pinch-hitter Jorge Orta led off with a slow bouncer to the right side.
First baseman Jack Clark ranged to field the ball and flipped a sidearm toss to reliever Todd Worrell covering the bag.
Denkinger signaled safe but replays showed Worrell caught the throw on the base ahead of the runner.
After Steve Balboni’s single, a bunt, a passed ball and an intentional walk, pinch-hitter Dane Iorg looped a two-run single into right field for a 2-1 walk-off win that forced Game 7. The Royals won 11-0 the following night for the championship.
‘Nobody wants to have the call that I did in the World Series,’ Denkinger told the AP in 2014. ‘But I did. And now it´s part of history.’
Denkinger received threatening notes in the offseason, and the FBI investigated. But he persevered and resumed a career of excellence.
Denkinger umpired in many of his era’s big games. He worked the plate for World Series Game 7 in 1991, when Minnesota’s Jack Morris pitched a 10-inning shutout to beat Atlanta 1-0 . He also worked the plate for the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox tiebreaker game at Fenway Park and for Nolan Ryan’s sixth no-hitter in 1990 .
Denkinger is among seven umps to work a pair of perfect games. He was at second base for Len Baker’s gem in 1981 and at first for Kenny Rogers’ perfecto in 1994.
Denkinger worked his first two World Series in 1974 and 1980. His final game was at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium on June 2, 1998, and he retired after the season at age 62 because of an ailing right knee.
He is survived by his wife, the former Gayle Price, and daughters. A funeral is planned for May 19 at St. John Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls.